Setbacks

Biogen quietly whisks away its $544M autoimmune rival to Celgene

Al Sandrock, Biogen

Al Sandrock, Biogen

Biogen is supposed to be hunting up new deals to fatten its late-stage pipeline. Instead, the company used its quarterly numbers review today to whisk one of its programs out the back door with as little comment as possible.

At the end of a roster of positive events in Q3, the big biotech noted: Biogen has discontinued development of amiselimod (MT-1303), which targets the sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptor.

That’s the same mechanism that drives Celgene’s ozanimod, acquired in the $7.2 billion Receptos buyout, which it has tapped as a top prospect in the pipeline.

We’ll have to wait for more of an explanation for the sudden about-face from Biogen during the call.

Biogen was much more vocal when it bagged the worldwide (ex-Asia) license for amiselimod (MT-1303) a little more than a year ago. The company paid Mitsubishi Tanabe $60 million up front and promised $484 million in milestones — which now go poof.

Company CMO Al Sandrock highlighted this drug in an interview I had with him at the latest JP Morgan gathering. At the time, Biogen was looking at putting the Phase III-ready autoimmune drug through a rapid late-stage development plan for multiple sclerosis, but whatever it found out about the drug in the meantime must have chilled their enthusiasm.

As Jefferies noted, Biogen is still very enthusiastic about its Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab, which is in a high-risk field. And the firm — which pegged ‘1303 as a potential blockbuster — also recently highlighted Biogen’s second thoughts on the drug just days ago.

Ph.II Crohn’s data is still possible by year-end as well as a ph.III start in IBD, though our sense was that BIIB is closely examining the evolving competitive landscape to determine potential next steps. (currently model $1B prob-adjusted out-year revs). We believe this is prudent given the lead time other drugs have over ‘1303.

Biogen has had its ups and downs this year, but it’s failed to deliver on creating the kind of pipeline needed to maintain faith in its future — particularly as Tecfidera sales fade and new rivals loom for that key market. CEO George Scangos is on the way out and analysts are still waiting to see how the company will position itself for 2017.


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